Even though the music world is steadily pushing EDM and digital music on the radio, in ads, and pretty much everywhere you turn, I’ve noticed that more and more people are starting to embrace kalimba music.
Sometimes referred to as the “finger harp”, the kalimba is a cute little wood board instrument with several metal plates. If you’ve grown fond of music made on this instrument or started practicing playing yourself, I want to show you some of the best kalimba songs in 2022.
What Are The Best Kalimba Songs?
1. “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley
A classic love song will always sound great, regardless of what you play it on. Kalimba makes “Can’t Help Falling In Love” even gentler, even though the original is already as smooth and tranquil as it can be. This is definitely one of the tracks that can resonate with anyone, regardless of what music you’re into.
2. “Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel
The natural, airy reverb of kalimba lends itself perfectly to songs like “Sound of Silence”. If you’ve just picked up on practicing kalimba, “Sound of Silence” may be challenging to master, but the uplifting feeling you’ll get after making it through the intro is more than rewarding.
This song is so great for kalimba players because Simon & Garfunkel are the masters of vocal melodies. Simply focusing on playing what they are singing will help you learn a good chunk of this song.
3. “Despacito” by Louis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
We all remember this summer hit; you may love it or hate it, but it’s one of the most viral and popular songs of the 2000s. It has been covered on pretty much everything from an electric guitar to small orchestral groups, so it was only natural someone took the time to play it on a kalimba.
In my opinion, “Despacito” sounds even better on this instrument. Take away the percussions, and this track becomes an even more cheerful and uplifting song.
4. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen
“Hallelujah” is to me an incredibly inspiring song. Whether I’m planning to jog, commuting, or want to get the writer’s block away, this song always shows me the right way to do whatever I’ve set my mind to. I believed it will sound pretty awesome on a kalimba, but I couldn’t predict its tender nature would fit so well with “Hallelujah”.
Regardless of whether you’re Cohen’s fan or simply making a playlist of the best kalimba songs, “Hallelujah” is the universal answer.
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5. “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
All pop music fans got hooked on “Perfect” as soon as it came out, and I think it’s fair to say that it wouldn’t be as “perfect” without Ed’s voice. I used to think that way until I heard it covered on kalimba, and I stand corrected.
Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” on a kalimba imparts the same, sweet message, but just like with “Sound of Silence”, it’s the beautiful singing melody that makes this song so unique and great for this instrument. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the instrumental part is as good as it gets in this genre of music, but as someone that thoroughly respects Sheeran’s singing capabilities, I believe “Perfect” sounds just as majestic on a kalimba.
6. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day
I remember the good old days when MTV music put pop, punk, and rock into the same basket, and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” is among the first song that comes to mind when melancholy hits.
This is a pop-punk masterpiece that still holds up nearly two decades after. On a kalimba, it’s more of a ballad than I think Billie Joe wanted it to be, but it’s still an amazing, relatively simple song that anyone can enjoy.
7. “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” made history as Titanic’s soundtrack. It’s a great movie and an even better song, brimming with emotion left, right, and center. If we were to replace the iconic flute with a kalimba, it probably wouldn’t sound as epic, but it will sound absolutely majestic.
It’s a powerful song regardless of how it’s played, but in my opinion, kalimba touches the song’s softest notes and makes them even gentler without losing the heart-wrenching impact this song is best known for.
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8. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz
Cheerful, upbeat, and honest to the core, “I’m Yours” is a song that’s very important to thousands of lovebirds. Professing one’s feelings to another was made easy by Mraz, but as popular as it is, the song’s vibe belongs to a ukulele.
I heard a kalimba cover of “I’m Yours”, and I had to reassure myself that it was the same track. It sounds even more joyous, and without Jason’s voice and its subtle accents, it’s certainly a fun way of expressing your artistic vision.
9. “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica
It’s not every day that you can utter metal and kalimba under the same breath, with the exception being “Nothing Else Matters”. Metallica famously released a host of iconic ballads, and this is arguably their most popular one. Fortunately, the intro sits so well with an instrument as expressive as the kalimba, so if you’re running out of practice ideas, this is as great as it gets.
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10. “Memories” by Maroon 5
“Memories” is as vibrant as it is beautiful, and even though Maroon 5 wouldn’t be the same without its guitar and keys, I strongly believe they need a kalimba player, at least for a tour or two.
11. “All The Small Things” by Blink 182
Back when Blink 182 was at its prime, you either belonged to their camp or Sum 41’s. As someone that appreciates music without bias, I got to enjoy the best of both worlds.
“All the Small Things” is as important to me as “Pieces”, but I also think that Blink 182’s tracks are more suited for kalimba, whereas Sum 41’s are a better fit for piano covers. This track is the pinnacle of melody in old-school pop punk, so if you didn’t have a chance to try it yet, do so, and you won’t be disappointed.
12. “Here Comes The Sun” by The Beatles
If The Beatles were a five-piece band, I guarantee the fifth person would be a kalimba player. As grandfathers of poppy rock songs, they made “Here Comes the Sun” as cheerful as possible. Kalimba with its natural reverb and expressiveness is the perfect instrument to cover it.
13. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons is one of the most technical pop rock bands out there, and if you want to challenge your kalimba-playing skills, I recommend giving “Believer” a shot.
From enduring its fast tempo, over hitting natural harmonics, to playing each note on your board, it’s not something everyone can do. Given how popular it is, I don’t have to tell you that it sounds absolutely entrancing, no matter which instrument you play it on.
14. “Kiss The Rain” by Yiruma
“Kiss The Rain” has been my “therapy” song for the longest time. The tranquility and stillness expressed in gentle piano keystrokes are something that not many tracks can boast about. It sounds much different, but equally satisfying on a kalimba, if not even more so.
15. “Zombie” by The Cranberries
There are numerous reasons why “Zombie” became (and remains) a massive song in the history books. From Dolores’s exquisite voice and singing style, over amazing guitar work, to perfect lyrics, “Zombie” transcends both generations and music genres.
While the original is a relatively simple, catchy tune, the kalimba versions are a bit more difficult. It’s not the easiest thing to do, emulating multiple melodies while holding the rhythm on a wooden block with metal plates, but it sounds both hauntingly beautiful.
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16. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
The intro riff to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is probably the most iconic guitar line in rock music. If you never tried doing it on a kalimba, it is actually quite easy once you master finger positioning.
Although the springy kalimba sounds can’t emulate a distorted hard rock guitar, you’d be surprised how exciting it can be to try. The remaining parts of the song are far more suited for kalimba, not to mention far easier to play.
17. “With Or Without You” by U2
Many songs U2 wrote can be interpreted in a number of ways, especially “With Or Without You”. The kalimba cover of this tune makes me feel quite nostalgic. As a classic song, you can’t miss by adding it to your playlist of the best kalimba songs.
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18. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Leave it to Sting to make a perfect love song. “Every Breath You Take” is one of the songs that grow on you more and more over time, especially when you hear it covered on different instruments.
Kalimba’s airy, metallic tone is a perfect fit for it, especially for the higher parts. I love that you can cover the guitar, the vocals, or both at the same time, as the track is decently simple to play.
19. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen
I can’t decide whether it’s Brian May’s masterful guitar work or Freddie’s larger-than-life voice that made Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” the soundtrack of its era. If you remember the Day on the Green (or videos of it), the sound of thousands of people singing it in unison was something that may never happen in music again.
If you’d take my advice, try covering Freddie’s vocal lines on your kalimba. The guitar riffs are a bit too detailed for an instrument as plain as this, but you’re welcome to try; I didn’t hear too many people do it justice.
20. “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
The older waves of R&B were much different than today’s music, with the most notable difference being that artists actually played their own instruments. Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” features piano licks worthy of Yiruma, which means that properly arranging the song for a kalimba may take you some time.
It is absolutely gorgeous and majestic, and what makes this song so fulfilling to cover on this instrument is not only its complexity but how epic the chord progressions are.
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21. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
Probably the most popular ukulele song of all time, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” reflects its Hawaiian roots and culture like no other. Even though it was composed on and for a ukulele, its captivating melodies sound just as gorgeous on a kalimba.
22. “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals
“The House of the Rising Sun” is full of memorable licks through and through, but it’s the intro that gets most people going. No matter how wonderful and perfect the guitar work in the original is, this song sounds just as great on a kalimba. Just watch out for hammer-on notes, this track will test your playing endurance.
23. “Happy Birthday Song” by Mildred and Patty Hill
I’ve talked about so many popular songs, but there isn’t a single song that’s more famous than “Happy Birthday”. You are probably humming it right now; it’s been sung by pretty much everyone across the globe at least a dozen times, which is more than reason enough to warrant a kalimba cover.
In my opinion, the best kalimba songs are the ones that can stay true to the original while showcasing its strongest lines and riffs. Whether it’s “Every Breath You Take”, “Zombie”, or “My Heart Will Go On”, the songs that can capture emotion and power while creating a unique, distinct sound are the finest kalimba songs.